The Trump administration issued a rule on Friday barring organizations that provide abortion referrals from receiving federal family planning money, a step that could cut millions of dollars in funding to Planned Parenthood and direct it toward religiously-based, anti-abortion groups.
The rule, which has been expected for months, is almost certain to be challenged in court. It also requires organizations that receive funding under the program, called Title X, to have “physical and financial separation” between abortion-related services and programs that involve birth control or other family planning services. Organizations that receive federal funds have already been prohibited for years from using it to finance abortion services.
The rule does not prevent Title X programs from talking about abortion with patients, just from telling them where they can obtain one. Still, women’s organizations and other critics of the move said it would interfere with health-care providers’ responsibilities to fully counsel patients about reproductive health.
“Trump’s domestic gag rule harms women in more ways than one,” Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, said in a statement. “It effectively dismantles Title X, forces doctors to lie and forbids them from referring their patients for abortion, and prevents women from being able to access Planned Parenthood’s services.”
Anti-abortion organizations heralded the regulation as a victory. “The finalized ‘protect life rule’ draws a bright line between abortion and family planning programs,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a statement, adding that the rule will loosen Planned Parenthood’s “hold on tens of millions of tax dollars.”
Title X provides $286 million in funding for programs that provide services like birth control, screening for breast cancer and cervical cancer and screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. These programs serve about 4 million patients a year at more than 4,000 clinics, about 40 percent of which are operated by Planned Parenthood, which receives close to $60 million in Title X funds each year.
“The Title X gag rule will essentially dismantle this critical federal program,” said Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “In many parts of the country Planned Parenthood is the only provider who participates in the program.”